The 2017 NBA Draft was long-projected to be filled with intriguing point guards, with UCLA’s Lonzo Ball and Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox both landing at or near the top of the list. The merits of both players were debated well prior to draft night, including Fox’s breakout performance when Kentucky eliminated UCLA from the NCAA Tournament.
Ultimately, Ball was selected second overall by his hometown Los Angeles Lakers and Fox went to the Sacramento Kings with the fifth pick. Curiously, Ball and Fox have not played against each other since that day in March.
They missed each other both at the Las Vegas Summer League and during the NBA preseason due to injuries Ball suffered. That ends Wednesday when the Lakers face the Kings in the second game of a back-to-back.
While the young point guards have been billed as bitter rivals, the two are friends off the court, and the matchup is one Ball said they revel in, per Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Ball, who is prone to soft bursts of replies. “Definitely in college everybody was looking forward to those UCLA-Kentucky games. I think we play better when we play against each other, when we trash talk, get into it, go at each other. You go out there, and you’re not thinking so much. You know? You go out there doing what you have been doing your whole life, just playing.”
One would have to imagine that Ball would like to get a little revenge for Fox getting the better of him in college. And of course it can be presumed Fox would love nothing more than to further torment his counterpart.
Stylistically, Fox and Ball are very different. Fox relies on his impressive speed to blow by defenders and get into the paint, while his quickness and long arms allow him to be a pest defensively.
Ball, on the other hand, has plenty of North-South speed, especially in transition, but he doesn’t play with the frenetic energy that Fox does. Instead, he prefers to read the floor and find open teammates, while also proving himself to already be one of the best rebounders and shot blockers in the league at his position.
Neither has shot particularly well thus far, though Ball expressed confidence his luck would soon turn.